Algal Bloom

Santa Barbara and Ventura counties are currently experiencing a harmful algal bloom event that has resulted in hundreds of stranded marine mammals that are currently suffering from domoic acid toxicity.

Should you encounter a marine mammal in distress, please keep your distance (at least 50 feet) and call Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute’s Hotline to report the animal and the situation: (805) 567-1505 or complete their rescue form.

Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin naturally produced in phytoplankton (tiny floating plants); sometimes referred to as “red tide."

Although the production of this neurotoxin occurs naturally, its extreme growth can be harmful. It threatens the health of marine mammals and seabirds and can affect humans through exposure via the food web. When wildlife consumes filter-feeding bivalves or fish that feed on the toxic algae, domoic acid transfers to larger marine creatures up the food web.

The clinical signs of domoic acid toxicity in wildlife can include disorientation, agitation, head bobbing and weaving, swaying body, foaming at the mouth, bulging eyes, muscle spasms, seizures, inability to move out of the water, unresponsiveness, and potentially death.

Signs of acute domoic acid toxicity typically subside after 72 hours as the toxin is eliminated from the body through urine. Some marine mammals can return to the wild and survive.

~ Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper